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The Libation Bearers


Lines 653–718

Lines 585–652

Lines 653–718, page 2

page 1 of 3

Orestes is pounding at the palace door, calling for the slave to open up and asking if there is a man inside the house. The porter finally comes to the door and asks where Orestes has come from and who he is. Orestes orders the porter to announce him to the masters of the house, saying that he comes bearing news. At first he asks for the mistress of the house, but then corrects himself, saying that the master would be better, for then no words need be minced. With women one must speak delicately, whereas men can speak directly to one another.

Clytamnestra then emerges from the palace, and graciously addresses Orestes and Pylades. She says, "we have all that you might expect in a house like ours," and offers them warm baths and beds. If, however, the travelers have arrived not seeking comfort, but in order to do political business, then it is the men's concern and she will communicate it to them.

Orestes lies about his origins to his mother in order to gain her trust. He says that he comes from Delphi, and that he encountered a stranger named Stophios on his way to Argos. This man made him promise to bring news to the palace that Orestes was dead. Orestes says that he does not know whether he is addressing the right person, but the parents ought to know the fate of their child.

Clytamnestra cries out that this story spells out her ruin, for the curse of the house is still at work. She laments that the curse has stripped her bare of all that she loves, now taking Orestes down. She had tried so hard to keep him clear of death, as he was the only hope of curing the Furies's evil revel in the palace.

Orestes says that he regrets not bringing happier news to such prosperous hosts. For, what bond is stronger than that between guest and host? But, he could not ignore his duty to fulfill his promise, and so had to convey this sad news.

Clytamnestra assures Orestes that he will be no less welcome in the house, despite his message. He is a true friend. She then remarks that the hour is late, and orders a servant to take him and Pylades to the guest chambers, where he can be attended in a manner that befits the house. She announces that she will commune with the master of the house in order to discuss the news.

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